Norwich theatres team up to create characters for Christmas pantomime

Norwich Theatre Royal Panto, Snow White. Pictured: The seven dwarfs. Picture: Supplied

Norwich Theatre Royal Panto, Snow White. Pictured: The seven dwarfs. Picture: Supplied - Credit: Supplied

Seven of the colourful characters joining the cast of Snow White this Christmas are the result of a festive partnership between two Norwich theatres.

Norwich Theatre Royal Panto, Snow White. Pictured: Amie Howes as Snow White with the dwarfs and pant

Norwich Theatre Royal Panto, Snow White. Pictured: Amie Howes as Snow White with the dwarfs and panto babes. Picture: Supplied - Credit: Supplied

The classic fairytale is the inspiration for this year's Norwich Theatre Royal pantomime, and it is Norwich Puppet Theatre which has pulled the strings to make the show's seven dwarfs.

The Major, Hippy, Windy, Toffee, Hercules, Ramsie and Boris are all specially-created puppets who are operated on stage by ensemble cast members.

The two theatres joined forces after Richard Gauntlett, the show's director, writer and dame, decided to explore the idea of using puppets, and for the last few months they have been working together on the seven characters.

Joy Haynes, Norwich Puppet Theatre director, said: 'There were certain things we needed to think about, particularly who would manipulate them. For all the dancers in the panto, it was their first time doing anything like this, so it was a challenge for them. We wanted to be involved in their training, make sure the puppets were not too complicated but they also needed to be seen clearly, and fit in design-wise with the production.'

Each puppet was hand-made over a six-week period and then paired up with an ensemble member. Once rehearsals began, the ensemble members had to both get into character and learn how to manipulate their puppet.

George Beet, who plays the laid-back dwarf Hippy, said: 'You need to embody the character in order for it to come across with the puppet. It is getting that voice and then sticking with it. You have to play across the character.'

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Nicola Mooi, who operates Ramsie, the Italian chef, said: 'Your body has to do what the puppet does. That is really important.'

And Josh Pearson, who plays the nice-but-dim Hercules, believes the dwarfs are going to be firm favourites with the audience. He said: 'People will see them once and look forward to them coming back on stage. I really think they will steal the show.'

Snow White is at Norwich Theatre Royal until January 17. To book, visit www.theatreroyalnorwich.co.uk or call 01603 630000.

Do you have a Norwich arts story? Email arts correspondent Emma Knights at emma.knights@archant.co.uk